“Shake it (shake it), shake it (shake it), shake that healthy butt! Baby got back!”
– Sir Mix-a-lot
This May it’s time to ask “Why Should We Do it?” and it’s all about the booty. Contrary to popular belief, the backside isn’t merely eye-candy that songs are written about or a built-in cushion for us to sit on (although that is one of it’s important functions). There is much more to your derrière. In fact, your butt is important!
If you train at Honest you have certainly heard the reminders from all the trainers to “squeeze your butt!” or “activate your glutes!” Do you ever wonder if it really is that important? Why should we squeeze our patootie anyway?
First things first, let’s get to know your backside. Your keister is made up of three major muscles:
The gluteus maximus – The main extensor muscle of the hip meaning it moves the upper leg backward (for example rising from a squat position or driving your rear leg back in a sprint). It is the largest muscle in the human body and is the primary muscle that shapes your lovely rear.
The gluteus medius – Nestled beneath the glute-max, this middle-child muscle is situated on the outer surface of the pelvis. It works to provide rotation of the thigh outward from the center of the body, which enables a steady walking gait.
The gluteus minimus – Lastly, the smallest muscle of the trio is situated anteriorly to (in front of) the glute-med. This fan or triangle shaped muscle helps with abduction (movement away from the midline of the body) and medial (inward) rotation of the thigh at the hip.
These are the three muscle-teers (see what I did there?) that make up your beautiful badunkadonk. Together they play a very important functional role in your body’s alignment and performance. Weak glutes could be holding you back in a myriad of ways.
What happens if we don’t strengthen our glutes?
- Other muscles will have to compensate which puts greater strain on your knees, groin and lower back
- Poor alignment of the lower body increasing risk of injury
- Forward-tilting hips that push the abdomen out creating the illusion of a larger gut
- Over-stretched hip extensors and glutes that “forget” how to activate properly (a.k.a. Gluteal amnesia)
Also keep in mind that when you are sitting (especially for extended periods of time) you are not using your gluteal muscles. Prolonged sitting adds to gluteal amnesia, overactive hip flexors, muscle imbalances and a higher risk for a host of injuries. In a society where almost everyone is sitting far to much, make it a point to get out and strengthen that heinie whenever you can!
Now let’s get to the point…Why should we do it?
Here are some of the benefits of strengthening your glutes:
- Alleviated lower back, hip and knee pain
- Reduced bone density loss
- Reduced abdominal “pooch”
- Stabilization of the pelvis during walking/running/climbing
- Proper hip extension and forward propulsion
- Improved posture and proper alignment of the pelvis, torso and legs
- Enabling proper form during weight training
- Protection from injury
- Enhanced athletic performance
Did I mention that muscle is metabolically active? That means that even when you are finished working out your muscles will continue to burn calories from stored fat. So if you strengthen your largest muscle you will burn way more calories! I call that a win-win situation.
Now that you know why, let’s talk about how. While essentially every exercise needs some butt squeezing, for now I’m going to focus on a good ol’ squat. Take a moment right now and do your best squat (yes, even if you’re at work…just let them stare!). Try to observe your body, especially your buttocks, as you do it. Do you feel your glutes activating? Do you find it challenging to squeeze your rear? If so, we’ve got some strengthening to do!
Here is trainer Justin to model a stellar squat while I review the steps.
- Begin with your legs shoulder width apart or slightly wider.
- Point your toes forward and just slightly out (where it’s comfortable).
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and stand with a tall, straight spine before you even begin the movement.
- Look straight ahead.
- Maintaining the aforementioned position, bend your knees and hips to lower into your squat.
- Lower until your thighs become parallel to the floor (or as low as your body will allow).
- At the lowest point of your squat make sure your knees do not drift past your toes or cave inward (another sign of weak glutes).
- Keep maintaining your best posture, activate your glutes and push through your heels to return to your standing position. Use caution not to drive through the balls of your feet which will put excess load on your quads rather than your tush.
- Now you can relax your caboose.
During each repetition you should be able to feel your butt muscles contract right as you begin the upward phase of the movement. Additionally, it’s best to hold off on adding weight or “load” to your squat (or any exercise for that matter) until you can do it with proper form.
When it comes down to it, not activating your glutes during exercise is like going to watch a movie and walking out half way through, or ordering a meal and throwing 3/4 of it on the floor.
Now you know why you should do it! So do it! Keep up the great work!
There are so many exercises you can do to strengthen your tuckus, come train with us at Honest to learn them all. Get a HUGE discount on your first month! Sign up here!